It happened again. For the fifth time in the last 14 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins yielded a game-tying goal in the waning minutes of the third period. Penguins goalie Matt Murray gifted Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis a goal with 3:01 remaining when Murray didn’t properly seal the post and Ellis’ shot caromed off Murray into the net. The Penguins otherwise extended heavy pressure in the Nashville zone but could not score again in regulation.
This time the Penguins won the shootout and earned the extra point when Sidney Crosby snapped his shootout through Pekka Rinne’s five-hole for a 2-1 Penguins win at Bridgestone Arena, Thursday night. Murray stopped all three Nashville attempts.
“Yeah, it’s been happening way too much lately, but give credit to the guys in here. I think we had the puck the entire overtime,” Bryan Rust said.
However, Ellis ended Murray’s scoreless streak against Nashville at 263:25. The Penguins have played three straight overtime games and two straight shootouts. Murray admitted he should have stopped the tying goal.
“It was a bit of a knuckle puck and I just didn’t squeeze tight enough. It’s one you’ve got to have for sure,” Murray said. “But it’s good to get two points.”
After a rocky first few minutes, the Penguins were able to adjust and generate some offensive push. Midway through the first period, the Penguins Nick BJugstad line was able to work the puck low and keep it there. The Penguins then began to tilt the ice and the advantage lasted through the second period.
Penguins winger Bryan Rust was either snake bitten or so-close in the first period, depending on how one classifies a pair of Grade A scoring chances which ended when Rust hit a post and a crossbar. Rust beat Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne but had nothing to show for it.
Just six minutes into the second period, Rust was finally rewarded. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang pinched at the blue line to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone and wristed it towards the net. Rust (18) gathered the puck as he cut across the crease and easily backhanded it into the wide-open net.
The Penguins exerted domination in the second period with an 8-1 scoring chance advantage but Rust’s marker was the only goal.
The Penguins defensemen were also working hard to protect the scoring zone. Jack Johnson thundered Filip Forsberg in the middle of the ice and Erik Gudbranson both absorbed and delivered a few hits in the period.
Penguins forward Adam Johnson, 24, made his NHL debut. The second-year professional who was an undrafted free agent played 3:59 and had one shot on goal.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray stopped 28 of 29 shots but the one which got away nearly haunted him and the Penguins. Rinne stopped 31 of 32 shots was otherwise brilliant as the Penguins peppered him in the second and third periods.
The Penguins now have a four-point lead over Carolina for third place in the Metro Division after Carolina squandered a third period lead to Tampa Bay, 5-3. The Penguins magic number is officially 11 points over the Montreal Canadiens who also won, Thursday night.